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The Best Internet Providers In My Area
The best internet provider (ISP) for you depends on which companies are available in your area and how you’ll be using the internet connection. The unfortunate truth of internet providers is that regional monopolies and natural topography prevent providers from being available everywhere.
We’ve done individual reviews of the various internet types, but if you aren’t sure what’s best for you yet, we’ve rounded up our favorites in each category below to help you find the best internet service.
What Sets Internet Providers Apart?
When it comes to finding the right internet service provider, there are a handful of features that can really set a provider apart. Some of the most important factors to consider are coverage, speed, and customer service. A provider that offers complete coverage at high speeds while still offering excellent customer service can stand out above the rest. Other features that customers look for are customization and flexibility. And the best internet service providers offer multiple plans to fit different needs, as well as contracts that customers can easily change if necessary.
The 7 Best Internet Service Providers
|AT&T||Fios by Verizon||HughesNet||Frontier||Spectrum||CenturyLink||Xfinity|
|Best for||Customer service||Fiber internet||Satellite internet||Cheap internet||Bundling||Business internet||Fastest Top Speed|
|Connection type||DSL, Fiber-Optic||Fiber-Optic||Satellite||DSL, Fiber-Optic||Cable, Fiber-Optic||DSL, Fiber-Optic||Fiber-Optic|
|Prices starting at||$35/mo.||$40/mo.||$60/mo.||$45/mo.||$50/mo.||$50/mo.||$30/mo.|
|Download speeds (Mbps)||DSL: 0.2-100 Fiber: 100–1,000||DSL: 0.5-15 Fiber: 200–940||25||DSL: 1-115 Fiber: 50–940||Cable: 100–940||DSL: 1.5-100 Fiber: 40– 1,000||Fiber: 15–2,000|
|Wi-Fi hotspot access||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Data cap||1 TB||Unlimited||Up to 50 GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||1 TB||1 TB|
|ASCI Score||68/100 (2nd)||73/100 (1st)||NR||55/100 (12th)||63/100 (T-6th)||63/100 (T-6th)||66/100 (3rd)|
|View plans||View plans||View plans||View plans||View plans||View plans||View plans|
Data current as of January, 2021
Types of Internet
There are a variety of different types of internet on the market. Depending on where you live, not every option will be available near you. But it’s important to understand the difference so you can choose the best plan.
- Cable: Cable internet uses the same copper cable lines that deliver cable television in your home. If you can get cable TV in your area, there’s a good chance you can get cable internet as well. Spectrum is an example of a provider that offers cable internet.
- DSL: DSL stands for digital subscriber line. It’s a type of internet that connects via a telephone network using a phone wall jack. AT&T, Frontier, and CenturyLink all offer DSL internet.
- Fiber: Fiber-optic internet is a type of broadband internet that transfers data using fiber optic cables. The fiber refers to the glass wires within a larger cable. Fiber-optic internet provides one of the fastest internet options on the market. AT&T, Fios, Frontier, Spectrum, CenturyLink and Xfinity all offer fiber internet options.
- Satellite: Satellite internet is a type of wireless internet transmitted using satellites. Just like satellite television, the signal is picked up by a satellite dish and transmitted to your home. Then, you can connect to the internet using a modem. HughesNet offers satellite internet.
Why Trust This Review?
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We make all our recommendations purely based on independent investigation done by our research and editorial team.
Internet Service Provider Resources
Best Customer Service
Excellent customer service
AT&T — Best Customer Service consistently tops the charts for how it interacts with its customers: The company won J.D. Power’s U.S. Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study award for the North Central region in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020. The company also took the top position for the West and South regions in 2020.
AT&T’s fiber-optic networks deliver incredibly fast internet speeds, climbing all the way up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) in some cities. This connection type is awesome for larger households with heavier internet activity, especially streaming.
If you’re not in an area that’s equipped with fiber-optic network lines, AT&T’s DSL is also a solid option for lighter internet usage and smaller households, delivering speeds all the way up to 100 Mbps, by far the fastest DSL option we found.
Its data limits are generous too, with up to 1TB (1,000 GB) on all plans. With AT&T you can rest assured you’ll be receiving quality customer care and reliable speeds.
AT&T offers internet service in 21 states, with the greatest coverage in California, Texas, and Florida. If you live in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, San Diego, or Dallas, AT&T is likely an option for your internet service. Its fiber-optic connections are mostly available in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and North Carolina.
Best Fiber Internet Provider
Two-year contract discounts
Excellent customer service
Expensive DSL plans
Verizon — Best Fiber Internet fiber service offers internet speeds from 100 Mbps to 940 Mbps. And the FCC’s 2018 report showed that Verizon’s actual speeds average more than what the company advertises — 108% of advertised speeds, to be exact. This is great news for anyone who uses the internet for more data-intensive activities like video streaming, video conferencing, and online gaming.
Verizon Fios, in particular, excels at service for gamers: PCMag found that Verizon had faster, more consistent speeds than any of the providers on our list, and thus named the company one of the top gaming internet providers of 2019. Verizon has outranked all other providers since 2016 on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), specifically with a 73/100 in 2020.
Unfortunately, Verizon Fios is only currently available in eight states and Washington D.C., servicing more than 4.3 million people in the Northeast. Granted, that’s the largest reach of any fiber-optic internet provider, but it still leaves out most of the country.
Verizon FiOS is only available in eight states: Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia — plus the District of Columbia. Verizon FiOS service is not available everywhere throughout these states, rather, service is mostly concentrated in highly populated urban areas and big cities.
Even its DSL service is fairly limited. If you live in a rural area outside of the East Coast, Verizon is unlikely to be an option for your internet service. You will have to provide an address in order to verify whether or not service is available in your area.
Best Satellite Provider
Fast speeds for satellite internet
Data caps and speed limits
Low customer satisfaction
Though satellite is inherently slower than other types of internet, HughesNet — Best For Satellite Internet offers 25 Mbps with every plan. If that sounds low, know that Hughesnet tends to overdeliver, with a 2018 FCC report showing actual speeds close to double what the company advertises.
However, you’ll have to choose your data limit. Most customers can choose from 10, 20, 30, or 50 GB of data per month. You’ll need to choose wisely: Once your data allotment is up, your speeds will likely dip to 1 to 3 Mbps until the next billing cycle, too slow for anything but basic web browsing. The upside: There’s a free data zone between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. where your internet usage isn’t counted against your monthly allotment. HughesNet also offers an app to help you manage services and track how much data you’ve used, so you’re never in the dark about how close you are to your cap.
Because HughesNet is a satellite internet provider, it’s available virtually everywhere. It is available to an astounding 308.7 million people in all 50 states, more than any other ISP in the country. No matter where you live, HughesNet is an option. It’s especially ideal for rural areas where other internet connection types aren’t available.
Best for Cheap Internet
Affordable DSL plans
Free or low-cost equipment
Low customer satisfaction
If you’re looking for a bare-bones internet package, Frontier — Best for Cheap Internet has some of the cheapest plans we saw. For $44.99 per month, you can get the 6 Mbps plan, called Frontier Internet, which is enough to stream video and browse the web at the same time. Of course, you’ll probably have issues if multiple devices are streaming at the same time, but for a smaller household, it’s a solid option and their only plan that offers a “Price for Life” option.
Frontier offers a no-contract option with all of its plans, a nice feature for anyone who might be moving or changing jobs soon. Most companies charge a hefty early termination fee or make you pay the remainder of your contract if you want to get out early. On top of that, Frontier’s no-contract plans still come with a two-year price lock, so you won’t suddenly have your rates hiked without warning.
Frontier Internet can be found in 25 states. Its DSL service is particularly widespread, while its fiber-optic internet can mostly be found in the Pacific Northwest. Frontier’s strongest coverage areas are Tampa, Rochester, Saint Petersburg, Long Beach, Fort Wayne, Durham, and Lakeland. However, central states like Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota are dead areas for Frontier.
Best Cable Internet Provider
Generous contract buyout
Expensive internet-only plans
Spectrum — Best Cable Provider offers fasts speeds across the board: When we put in sample addresses on Spectrum’s website, we were never offered an internet plan that started at less than 60 Mbps. And with Charter Spectrum’s huge fiber coverage, many plans start at an incredibly fast 100 Mbps. That’s enough to stream 4K video on your smart TV, play “Fortnite” on your PlayStation, and browse Twitter on your phone, all at the same time.
If you’re looking to leave your current internet provider, Spectrum offers an amazing contract buyout promotion for qualifying Triple Play packages (or limited double-play), covering early termination fees up to $500.
That Triple Play package also promises a free installation (normally $35), free DVR service ($13 per month), and free WiFi setup (typically $10). But Spectrum really wants you to bundle internet with TV service and phone service: It’s actually cheaper to sign up for all three, and you still get the same speeds.
Spectrum is the second-largest cable internet provider, with high-speed internet service in 41 states. Spectrum’s coverage area greatly expanded after its merger with Time Warner Cable in 2016. Top areas served include Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Saint Louis, and Orlando.
Purchasing business internet comes with some unique considerations, most notably a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This contract ensures compensation and solutions for times when your internet goes down. For businesses, loss of internet can mean serious money and productivity loss, so an SLA should state satisfactory solutions for when the technology fails.
CenturyLink — Best For Businesses offers one of the most transparent SLA, detailing generous compensation for downtimes. For every 30 minutes your service is down, CenturyLink will credit you with one full day of internet service — that’s double the compensation of most other companies. CenturyLink offers two options for its contracts: either a two-year agreement (better for established businesses) or a month-to-month plan (better for growing businesses). You can also choose to bundle your service with TV, phone, voice, or home security — a one-stop-shop to outfit your office.
CenturyLink currently services 36 states. Unlike most of the other providers we feature, CenturyLink has a focus on the West Coast and North Central regions. Its most serviced areas are Las Vegas, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Denver, Tucson, Seattle, and Saint Paul. CenturyLink is also known for its presence in more rural areas, offering an additional DSL option to less populated places.
Fastest Max Speeds
Reliably fast speeds
Wide range of plans
Generous data caps
Poor customer service
Comcast Xfinity — Fastest Max Speeds promises the fastest internet speeds we saw in our research, going all the way up to 2,000 Mbps (2 Gbps). This is probably well beyond overkill for most households — and it’ll set you back $300 a month — but even if you opt for a more reasonable plan, Comcast has proven that it will meet whatever speeds you choose. Both Netflix and SpeedTest rated it one of the fastest internet service providers in their most recent rounds of testing.
Xfinity also has a ton of options for both its internet and cable TV packages. Cable internet plans start at 15 Mbps (usually for around $50), which is great for users who just need their connection for email and web browsing. Plans scale up to 2,000 Mbps, and most allow you to add basic cable for just $5. Just look out for extra fees: Like a lot of internet providers, Xfinity charges you an activation fee. The difference with Xfinity is that you’re the one doing the installing. You’ll have to pay $15 for self-installation, which is seriously off-putting. The only way to have the fee waived is to bundle your TV and internet packages together.
Comcast Xfinity serves about 111 million people in 39 states(plus Washington D.C.), making it the largest cable provider in the U.S. It tends to frequent urban areas and suburbs near cities. Xfinity’s top serviced areas are Houston, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Jose, and Denver. You’ll find Xfinity along the East and West coasts and in many Southern cities, but those who live in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, or Nebraska will have to look at other providers.
How We Chose the Best ISPs
The best high-speed internet service can be pretty objective, depending on what you prioritize. Your household’s internet needs and budget could dictate which provider you choose. We evaluated the most popular nationwide internet companies for a few key features.
- Coverage. You might not have much of a choice when shopping for internet service. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance reports that 129 million Americans (39% of the country) have access to only one broadband internet provider. We focused on the largest nationwide providers that are likely available to your address.
- Speed. The FCC’s definition of broadband internet service has a minimum benchmark of 25 Mbps download speeds. We cut any company that didn’t offer speeds of at least 25 Mbps, enough for several people to be browsing at once. We generally favored providers with a variety of speed options for consumers.
- Customer service. Internet providers generally have a reputation for poor customer service — frustrating phone calls, billing disputes, and service interruptions. The best provider will have a track record of keeping its customers happy. We used scoring metrics from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and J.D. Power to measure a provider’s likelihood of offering high-quality customer service.
Internet Providers Near Me
Your internet options will vary widely depending on where you live. While many providers are available across the nation, some have stronger presence in specific regions. Satellite providers like HughesNet are available nearly anywhere and a solid fallback for many rural areas.
Here are the most popular providers in each region:
- South: AT&T, Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications, Suddenlink, Frontier Communications, CenturyLink
- North Central: AT&T, Comcast Xfinity, Frontier Communications, Charter Spectrum, CenturyLink
- West: Comcast Xfinity, CenturyLink, Charter Spectrum, Cox Communications, AT&T, Mediacom, Frontier Communications
- East: Verizon, Comcast Xfinity, Cox Communications, Optimum, Charter Spectrum, Frontier Communications
Guide to Internet Service Providers
Setting up your home with internet can be a lengthy process. We can help you understand what you’ll need and how to navigate the purchasing process.
- Check availability. The first step when shopping for internet is the easiest: Simply check which providers service your address. The list is likely short, and we recommend you consider smaller regional providers too. You can enter your address directly into a company’s site, ask your neighbors who they use, or utilize online search engines.
- Gauge the speed you’ll need. Once you find the providers near you, you’ll have to choose a speed package. You’ll need to account for the kind of internet activity and how many people are connecting. More demanding activities like streaming video or online gaming will require higher internet speeds. If you’re just web browsing or emailing, you won’t need as much. We consulted networking experts, compared online tools from ISPs, and used HighSpeedInternet.com to build a guide that will help you find the right internet speed for your household. Determine where you are on the range of light use to very heavy use, then match that to the number of connected devices in your home.
|1-3 devices||5-10 Mbps||15 Mbps||25 Mbps||50 Mbps|
|4-8 devices||15 Mbps||25 Mbps||50 Mbps||100 Mbps|
|8-10 devices||25 Mbps||50 Mbps||100 Mbps||150 Mbps|
|10+ devices||50 Mbps||100 Mbps||150 Mbps||200+ Mbps|
Light use: emails, web browsing, social media, SD video streaming
Moderate use: music streaming, occasional online gaming, streaming HD video on one or two devices.
Heavy use: multiple devices streaming HD video simultaneously, real-time gaming, video conferencing.
Very heavy use: Multiple devices streaming HD or 4K video simultaneously, large file downloading, real-time gaming, video conferencing.
- Determine data needs. In the context of internet, data usage refers to the amount of information you upload and download. Similar to a phone plan, there are limits on that monthly usage. Data caps can range from 10 GB to unlimited data. Higher-demanding activities will use more data. Light usage like emailing or web browsing will be comfortable with 50 GB, while a larger household that frequently streams will be more comfortable with data caps closer to 250 GB or 500 GB.
To check out our full speed analysis and fee comparison, read our full Guide to Internet Service Providers.
What is Mbps?
Mbps stands for megabits per second and they are units used to measure internet speed, not to be confused with MBps which stands for megabytes per second and measures data capacity. Mbps measure the transfer rate, or as they’re more commonly known as, the upload and download speeds. The more Mbps you have, the faster your internet will be. (Eight megabits equals one megabyte.)
Is a credit check required for internet service?
No, but there are some companies like AT&T, HughesNet, and Xfinity require a credit check for their services, however most pre-paid and month-to-month options, from options like Verizon Fios Prepaid or Frontier’s no-contract option, do not. Some companies, like Spectrum do not run credit checks at all for their internet services and some companies, like Centurylink offer you the option to put down a $100 dollar deposit instead of running your credit.
Who is the cheapest?
Among our top picks, the cheapest monthly price for internet access is offered by Frontier Internet, which offers DSL for $28 per month for 6 Mbps, however if you’re looking for a bit more speed than that, Frontier also offers 25Mbps for $35 per month. However, we suggest taking a look at Xfinity’s promotional rates, where you can get up to 100 Mbps of speed for $35 per month.
More Internet Reviews
If you’re looking for something more specific, or want more detailed information on one provider, check out one of our related reviews.